PITTSBURGH, January 30, 2014 – Flanked by people who have struggled due to state human services budget cuts, Senate Democrats today detailed their budget priorities and challenged Gov. Tom Corbett to produce a spending plan that is aligned with the needs of Pennsylvanians.

Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills) joined Senators Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) and Matt Smith (D-Mt. Lebanon) to discuss proposals that would create jobs, strengthen education investment and provide an extra $85 million in the upcoming state budget for county human services programs. Funding for such programs has fallen significantly during the first three Corbett budgets.

“We must begin repairing holes in the social safety net by using $85 million in Medicaid budget savings for human services programming such as drug, alcohol and mental health programs,” Costa said. “Expanding Medicaid and extending health care to 500,000 Pennsylvania families would also generate $400 million in budget savings while boosting our economy.”

The Pittsburgh news conference was part of a statewide outreach where Democrats discussed their budget priorities. Similar news conferences were held in Erie, Johnston, Scranton, Hazleton and Philadelphia.

Sen. Wayne Fontana focused on investing in proven job creation and business development programs. He also called for Pennsylvania to increase its minimum wage to at least $9 per hour, and $10.10 by 2015. The legislature has not acted to increase the minimum wage in seven years.

“Since the recession began, my Democratic colleagues and I have sponsored numerous bills aimed at stoking our economy, helping businesses grow, embracing new business opportunities and training people for jobs that are actually out there,” Fontana said. “We need a comprehensive approach that invests state dollars into proven and promising initiatives that will create jobs, retrain workers, and attract business investment and expansion.”

Sen. Matt Smith added, “While other states are making thoughtful investments in education, Pennsylvania has regressed and placed the burden on hardworking families and cash strapped school districts. “Senate Democrats understand that education investments at all levels – beginning with pre-K – will yield direct economic benefits for all Pennsylvanians and is not only the right move, but also the smart one.”

Under Gov. Corbett’s leadership, Pennsylvania has fallen from the top 10 to 48th in job creation. The Democrats said they could bolster state funding for important budget line items by “realigning spending priorities and realizing greater efficiencies. They said they could accomplish this without raising broad-based taxes.”

Senate Democrats said they will also push for the following in this budget:

  • Creating jobs by funding targeted water and sewer rehabilitation projects, strengthening school-to-work programs and expanding community economic zones throughout the state; and
  • Investing in education with a $300 million boost, bolstering funds for early education and committing to a long-term financing plan that restores funding
  • Costa said he realizes the investments and initiatives identified cost money so the Senate Democratic Caucus has devised a budget savings-and-revenue plan of more than $1.1 billion to address the budget shortfall and fund the priorities.
  • The governor has scheduled his annual budget address to the General Assembly for next Tuesday, Feb 4.

The news conference featured people who have struggled under the Corbett human services cuts. Officials from the following organizations also took part: Mercy Behavioral Health, Consumer Health Coalition, Community Human Services, Conference of Allegheny Providers, and the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.

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